Hyundai’s 20 years in India: Only realistic competitor to Maruti Suzuki and the 8 new cars to drive its growth

From one small car, Hyundai now manufactures a total of twenty individual models out of their manufacturing facility in Sriperumbudur, Chennai. From small cars to SUVs, Hyundai’s strong grip on the Indian market prevails.

By: | Updated: June 27, 2018 6:23 PM


In 1998, a South-Korean car manufacturer set up base in India with plans of selling a car for the masses. A title that long belonged to the Maruti Suzuki 800. That company goes by the name of Hyundai and car they launched the following year was the Santro and there on forth the rest is history. Hyundai knew that they could not fight the Indo-Japanese Maruti 800 in terms of value for money, so they adopted a policy to position their cars slightly above the respective Maruti competition, but with more features and a focus on creature comforts. A strategy that still holds strong 20 years later. Skip forward two decades and Hyundai is a household name today and the second largest car manufacturer after Maruti Suzuki in the Indian automotive industry. From one small car, Hyundai now manufactures a total of twenty individual models out of their manufacturing facility in Sriperumbudur, Chennai. From small cars to SUVs, Hyundai’s strong grip on the Indian market prevails. Most importantly, in today’s context, the 20 years of Hyundai Santro have now come a full circle with the Hyundai Santro back on the launch schedule within this year. As Hyundai completes two successful decades in India, we take a closer look at the most memorable Hyundai cars that touched Indian roads and hearts!

Hyundai Santro (1998-2014)


In 1998, Hyundai made their first move in the Indian market with the Hyundai Santro, also known as the Atoz in international markets. This small car was placed slightly above the Maruti 800 and it instantly won hearts with its unique tall boy design and spacious interiors. A runaway success, the Santro soon became one of India’s most recognizable cars. Proof of this lies in the fact that the Hyundai Santro stayed on sale consistently from 1998 all the way to 2014, sufficing with minor nips and tucks for more than 15 years. Now, the car that started it all is set to make a comeback with an all-new Hyundai Santro likely to launch before the festival season this year.


Hyundai Accent (1999-2011)

The Santro was followed by the Hyundai Accent in 1999 and was aimed at India’s still nascent sedan market. However, with an aspirational and young country on the growth path, it was only a matter of time that sedans would gain immense popularity. The Accent, although not a hit as big as the Santro, set pace for Hyundai’s cars in India. The turning point for the Accent brand was in 2002 when they launched the CRDi version which was a revolution in diesel engines as far as India was concerned. The 1.5 litre CRDi motor was smooth and comparatively refined. In many ways the Hyundai Accent brought diesel as a fuel to passenger cars in India.  


Hyundai Sonata (2002-2013)

With their next car, Hyundai attempted to enter a segment that most carmakers steered clear of - the premium sedan segment. Taking a stride into the luxury sedan space with Hyundai Sonata Gold, the company did manage to get a lot of eyeballs due to the car’s design similarity with Jaguar models. That said, the Sonata Gold was one of the most luxurious cars on sale in India at that time. In India, the Sonata, a status symbol of sorts,  was met with a lukewarm reception and never set sales charts on fire.


Fluidic Design(2011-)

However, the real change for Hyundai came with the introduction of their new family design philosophy, something that Hyundai called the Fluidic Design Philosophy. Synchronized with a strong growth spurt for Hyundai globally, Fluidic design changed Hyundai images from a little known South Korean company to a global automotive powerhouse. In 2011, Hyundai rolled out the Verna Fluidic to kick off a generation of cars designed around this design philosophy. Over the years, Hyundai has tweaked this philosophy to keep it relevant and exciting. Each new iteration from Fluidic Design to Fluidic Sculpture to the present philosophy of Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, Hyundai have strived to keep design universally appealing and progressive.


Hyundai  Verna/i20

While most of the other cars in this story are no longer in production, the Hyundai Verna, Creta and i20 are still very much in production and thriving in the Indian automobile industry. Without these three cars, this story would have been incomplete. The i20 was the best-selling car in it’s segment for many years until the recently launched Maruti Suzuki Baleno came into the picture. From a Swift competitor the i20 matured over the years, earning its place among the most iconic premium hatches ever sold in the country. The Verna, which first came in to replace the Accent, became one of India’s most favoured sedans. Even in the present day, Hyundai’s Verna has won every executive sedan shootout at Express Drives over the last year.


Hyundai Upcoming models

For all of this, and for many other special memories over the last two decades, Hyundai has earned a special place in many Indian hearts. On the occasion, Y.K Koo, MD and CEO, Hyundai Motor India Limited said that Hyundai was focused on not only the last two decades but the two decades ahead as well and that their target is to become not only the Most Beloved and Trusted brand but also the most modern, Premium Brand, attain Market Leadership and be a Great Place to Work as well.

Speaking to Express Drives, YK Koo added “As a commitment to our Indian market, we will be strengthening our product lineup with launch of 8  models which will include Face Lifts, New Segment Vehicles, Full Model Change and an electric vehicle during 2018-2020. our products have redefined the auto industry and are a true expression of Hyundai’s Innovation, Global Technology-led Execution and our Futuristic approach towards clean and connected mobility solutions. We would like to continue this successful journey for the next 20 years and realize our vision of becoming Lifetime Partners in Automobile and beyond.”

The Road Ahead

Naturally, we would be amiss to leave this story hanging here, considering that Hyundai has thereby officially announced the addition of 8 new models over the next two years. It is likely that the Full Model Change that Koo is speaking of is the Hyundai Santro, which is due to launch soon this year and is based on a new platform. This leaves 6 cars aside from the electric to think about so watch this space for more!

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